NEW YORK – Thousands of Michael Jackson fans danced the rain away in a Brooklyn park on Saturday at a party hosted by filmmaker Spike Lee, marking what would have been the 51st birthday of the late pop star.
Crowds of partygoers streamed into Prospect Park late Saturday afternoon, many wearing fedoras, sporting white gloves and showing off other Jackson-esque outfits. DJs spun Jackson's hits one after the other as people danced and sang along. Dozens of hawkers wandered through the crowd with T-shirts, buttons, posters and homemade memorabilia.
"I was just like everyone else. I loved his talent," said Lee, who directed two music videos for Jackson in 1996. He also reminisced how Jackson had visited him in his home in Brooklyn to talk about their music video collaboration.
The day was also designated Michael "King of Pop" Jackson Memorial Day by Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz.
"We all know Michael Jackson had fans around the world, but we all know the best fans come from Brooklyn," Markowitz boasted to a roaring crowd that grew as heavy rain in the morning lightened to a drizzle by mid-afternoon.
Edna Robles of Brooklyn was on her feet all afternoon. In a red baseball cap and flip flops, she closed her eyes and swung her hips, pivoting in the grass and mud to the beats of Jackson's hit "Thriller."
"It could be thundering, I don't care," she said. "I watched him through the years and I think he's the best. I love him."
The event, originally planned as a block-party-style gathering for 2,000 in Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park, was moved to Prospect Park to accommodate a bigger crowd.
Peter Brodie and his wife, Corrine Rodriguez, brought their daughters, 3-month-old Astrid and 2 1/2-year-old Makeda, to the party. Rodriguez danced with Makeda to "Beat It" while Brodie swayed side to side as he held Astrid in his arms.
"I grew up listening to Michael Jackson. I was 9 years old and he opened up a whole new world of music and dancing to me," said Brodie, who said it was a shame that such a spirited celebration of Jackson's music came only after his death.
Aubrey Harris, a 45-year-old from New York, was clutching a stack of homemade portraits he made of Jackson.
"I'm spreading the memory of Michael Jackson," said Harris, who cut out Jackson's image from posters and created 19 collages decorated with paint and glitter. "I'm keeping it in the forefront of people's minds."
By mid-afternoon, he had already sold 10 portraits for $15 each.